Will Congress Get Around to Scrapping Duplicative Programs?

“In addition, DOD reported that it could save up to $82 million in development and acquisition cost savings through increased collaboration among the military services,” Dodaro said.

The GAO also found that the concerns of catfish are taken seriously within the federal government. The 2008 Farm Bill assigned the Food Safety and Inspection Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the responsibility of examining and inspecting catfish and for creating a catfish inspection program -- even though federal programs with the same duties already existed. Repealing the provision, the GAO said, “could save taxpayers millions of dollars annually without affecting the safety of catfish intended for human consumption.”

Earlier this week, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) announced plans to offer an amendment to this year’s farm bill to repeal the catfish provision with a commiserate savings of about $14 million per year. The duty will remain with the Food and Drug Administration.

“We found overlap among federal programs or initiatives in a variety of areas, such as joint veterans and defense healthcare services, export promotion activities, drug abuse prevention and treatment programs and veterans’ employment and training programs,” Dodaro said.

The report also identifies 14 areas where cost savings or better revenue collections can be achieved. The Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, could cancel the Medicare Advantage Quality Bonus Payment Demonstration since most of the bonuses will go to plans with average performance and no credible evaluation plan exists. Canceling the demonstration for 2014 would save about $2 billion.

GAO also cited opportunities to save billions more in areas such as expanding strategic sourcing, providing greater oversight for Medicaid supplemental payments, and reducing subsidies for crop insurance.

On the positive side, Dodaro said the federal government has taken some actions that will save millions of dollars. In 2012, for instance, the GAO suggested that the Air Force review and renegotiate food service contracts to better align with the needs of the various installations.

According to Air Force officials, after reviewing the food service contracts at eight installations, the Air Force renegotiated their contracts for a total savings of over $2.5 million per year. Air Force officials told the GAO that the service will now review contracts annually for areas where costs can be reduced.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee chairman, said he intends to work with Coburn to implement many of the findings presented in the GAO report but acknowledged the job won’t prove easy.

“The issues cut across various departments and longstanding federal programs that have entrenched constituencies and, in many cases, provide the public with much-needed services,” Carper said. “It is time, then, for Congress and the executive branch to roll up our sleeves and get to work solving these issues.”